ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Monique Lugo-López is a LEED Green Associate and the President & Chief Operating Officer at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón.
LEED CERTIFIED BUILDINGS HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON PEOPLE’S LIVES AND ON THE ENVIRONMENT.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized certification system that verifies the strategies employed by a building or community intervention to improve environmental performance based on metrics such as energy usage, water consumption, greenhouse emissions, and indoor environmental quality. It’s rating provides a flexible and straightforward framework for healthy, efficient, and cost-effective building and community interventions. Here are 11 steps to getting your project LEED certified:
1. SELECT THE RIGHT LEED RATING SYSTEM
Once the project team decides to seek LEED certification, the first step is to select the LEED rating system that corresponds to your project. LEED rating systems vary by building typology and project type.
The rating systems are: Building Design and Construction for new buildings and major renovations, Interior Design and Construction for interior fit outs, Operations and Maintenance for building improvements involving little or no construction, and Neighborhood Development for land development.
Your project does not have to be limited to just one rating system. Multiple certifications are possible, check out the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) interactive Discover LEED tool to get started, and use the rating system selection guidance to make your decision.
2. HOLD A CHARRETTE
After selecting the right LEED rating system, the next step is to lead a charrette. A charrette is a workshop where all project stakeholders are in the same room discussing ideas, timelines, costs and benefits of green building strategies. Make sure to include in the charrette the project’s owners, engineers, designers, contractors, consultants, tenants or occupants and even the bank, to increase the success of the process. In this intense brainstorming session, the project’s vision and sustainability goals will be defined.
The result of the charrette will be a first draft of the LEED scorecard, the preliminary rating to be pursued, a project schedule, and a definition of the roles of each member of the project team. Make sure to verify that the project meets all the prerequisites or minimum program requirements (MPR) necessary of the LEED rating system pursued. You can check this by visiting the LEED Minimum Program Requirements section.
Register your project through the LEED Online platform by completing the required forms and submitting the registration payment. When registered, you will also be able to use the online platform access your project application and information, access LEED resources, and submit the application for LEED certification. Register your project early. The earlier in the design process, the more time you have to find right solutions for your project.
4. ASSIGN ROLES
When registering your project, identify a Project Administrator. The Project Administrator will act a project manager in the LEED certification process and will also be the team member who will be in charge of setting up credits, assigning credits to other team members, and submitting the LEED application for review. Other key roles in the LEED certification process include:
- Owner: The owner of the project is the person (or entity) who has the authority to hold and control the real and personal property and accepts the certification agreement.
- Agent: The agent is the person (or entity) who is granted actual authority by the owner to register the project and accept the certification agreement.
Project teams can also use checklists provided by the USGBC to track their project goals and progress.
5. CONFIRM YOUR PROJECT MEETS THE PREREQUISITES
The project team must comply with all necessary prerequisites and minimum program requirements for the LEED certification system that is being pursued. Prerequisites are compulsory and do not earn your project any points. Since different buildings serve different purposes, the number of prerequisites, credits and points may vary. They represent the key criteria that define the performance of a green building. If you do not meet any of the prerequisites your project will not be eligible to earn LEED certification.
6. EARN CREDITS
Projects looking to get LEED certified, earn points for satisfying different sustainability goals and green building strategies across several categories. Each LEED rating system has different credits. Credits are optional; the project team selects and decides which ones to aim for. But remember, credits will define your project’s certification level. Explore the LEED Credit Library to get details on all available credits.
Based on the number of points achieved, a project can earn one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The following is a breakdown of each rating level with the amount of points that can be earned:
- Certified: 40-49 points earned.
- Silver: 50-59 points earned.
- Gold: 60-79 points earned.
- Platinum: 80+ points earned.
7. COMPLETE APPLICATION
The project team and administrator will complete the LEED application by collecting the information needed for each of the credit submittals. These forms are filled out online using LEED Online. Documentation to be updated to LEED Online includes credit templates, narratives, drawings, specifications, photographs and other credit supporting information.
LEED Online is a tool that not only serves as a depository of all LEED project information, but it’s also a communication tool with the project team members and the USGBC customer support staff.
8. REVIEW YOUR APPLICATION
Once all the application documentation is ready, it’s time to thoroughly review the application before submitting it. Check the credit templates, the project information and the supporting form information, to ensure that all information that supports the prerequisites and the credits are complete and correct. When you are certain that all the application materials are in order, you can submit the application for review.
9. PAY CERTIFICATION FEES
The LEED certification fees vary by project. The project certification fee will be based your project’s rating system and size. This fee will be calculated and must be paid when you submit the LEED application for review in LEED Online.
10. PROJECT REVIEW
Once the USGBC receives your application and payment, a LEED reviewer will review and rule on the application. You can choose to split the project review during design and construction or do a combined design and construction review. No matter which path you choose, the LEED reviewer will update the status of the prerequisites and credits on LEED Online indicating their status, asking for clarifications if needed, and determining if the application review was awarded or denied. You can appeal any denied credits by requesting a supplemental review.
11. GET CERTIFIED
The final step is to accept your review results and confirm your building’s LEED certification based on the number of points achieved. You will receive a plaque, which you can proudly display on your newly LEED certified building!
MAKE LEED CERTIFICATION YOUR GOAL
When finally getting your project LEED certified, aim to get future projects LEED certified as well, and encourage others in the industry to do the same. Getting your building LEED certified increases the value and environmental integrity of the project. Our former AD&V Headquarters at Cuidadela were certified LEED Platinum, and we’re currently seeking LEED certification for our new headquarters at the Convention District. By lowering operating costs, conserving water and energy, minimizing waste, and significantly reducing our firm’s carbon footprint while fostering a healthy work environment for the AD&V Team, we are making a difference and setting an example for others to follow.